City’s deal with the police union could blow a(nother) huge hole in the budget
The Toronto police force’s already bloated budget just ballooned a little bigger. Word is that city council Toronto Police Service Board and the Toronto Police Association came to an agreement that will make Hogtown’s boys in blue the highest-paid police force in Canada—a far cry from the budget freezes and/or cuts other departments are facing as Toronto gears up for budgetmageddon in the coming year. Over the next four years, local police can look forward to an 11 per cent raise, an increase Rob Ford’s critics are decrying for the ripple effect it could have on other essential services throughout the city.
And they don’t mean a little ripple. Councillors Adam Vaughan and former TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc are the leading voices of dissent, describing the deal as a “rookie mistake” that could end up costing the city more than $50 million annually. According to yesterday’s Toronto Star:
“This is going to drive every single essential service contract in the city. The city has said it can afford to pay 3 per cent a year. Not only are the firefighters going to get it, but who else is going to now that they’re an essential service? The TTC,” said left-wing councillor Adam Vaughan.
“This will have a ripple through the largest employee groups in the city.”
The basic problem is that the city is now caught between a rock, a hard place and an even harder place: a generous arbitrated settlement with the police (which is an essential service under provincial labour law), a TTC contract that needs to be renewed (guess what just got declared an essential service too?) and a provincial tendency to arbitrate labour costs upward. Toronto’s already staring at a massive budget hole for 2012, and a comparable agreement for the city’s transit workers could make the deficit that much bigger.
Of course, this problem was entirely predictable, and the likelihood that it would arise was one of the main arguments against designating the TTC an essential service. It might be time to start hoping Mayor Ford’s “direct line” with the new Conservative majority in Ottawa pays off.